Notes from An Alien

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Tag Archives: Rules of Writing

Yes, We’re Still Having a Conversation about the “Rules of Writing” . . .


This Blog Conversation began on October 15th and continued on Oct. 17th19th22nd24th26th29th, 31st, and November 2nd… Rules of Writing

It’s also the longest discussion, so far, in this new style of posting that began back in March…

And, I encourage anyone interested in thinking deeply about the “rules of writing” to go back and read the past nine posts—our readers’ comments are very thought provoking…

The first commenter on our last post is the reader who’s commented the most in this series of conversations—an author-publisher from Germany:

“We have mentioned in this and former installments the importance of reading for good writing. A writer doesn’t have to be able to spell out a rule but he or she has to be able to recognize writing that works and writing that doesn’t work. If a writer wants to experiment – why not? Yet the writer should be able to judge the experimental text and decide if it works for readers (for whatever rule) or if it doesn’t.”

This idea of reading to learn how to write (“properly”) certainly isn’t about reading books about “how to write”—it’s reading books you consider having been written by authors who know what their doing; still, it could be a challenge selecting the set of (“proper”) writers to read.

Is Stephen King “proper”—J. K. Rowling, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, James Patterson, C. J. Cherryh, Neil Gaiman, _________, _________, _________ ?

I certainly have my own ideas about which authors are worth reading to “instruct” me in the way to use words; yet, of course, reading a particular author-as-instructor has nothing in it of copying their style.

And, other “writers-in-the-trenches” have their own set(s) of “qualified-enough-to-read-for-guidance-authors”.

As our commenter from Germany said, writers must be “able to recognize writing that works and writing that doesn’t work…”.

Which prompts me to ask a question that I hope will receive a few answers in the comments: What is writing that “works”…?

Now, a comment from a writer, poet and artist from Belgium:

“There are many facets to this discussion.

“On the one hand, there’s the story and what works for it. But on the other hand, there’s the credit people will give you in breaking rules.

“A published author who has had the opportunity to build a reputation will probably be more easily forgiven for breaking the rules than a noob like myself. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the craft of writing and story mechanics. But I haven’t proven myself yet, have I?

“As a non-native English speaker, people who don’t know me are even more likely to assume I’m ignorant or an unpracticed writer, since many rules and conventions differ for other languages.

“If I go kicking down doors, I don’t know if it will be as easily accepted. People may assume I break rules out of ignorance, since they’ve yet to find out I’m not ignorant.

“That said, I look forward to more discussion on the topic.”

I’ve read this commenter’s blog and it certainly seemed to me that they have a fluent command of English; but, here I am now, concluding I know what I’m saying about the “rules” of English—me, the grammar and syntax Maverick…

So, are we back to the overarching axiom that the writing, no matter what “rules” it breaks, must be something that “works”…?

Works for any particular reader or a set of genre fans or TradHouse editors, or………?

I remember someone criticizing a bit of my writing in a story as “wrong” and me letting them know it just happened to be the way that character spoke…

And, God help the poor writer subjected to an editor on one of that editor’s bad days…

This seems a good place to insert a quote that’s been in every post in this conversation:

No rule should be followed over a cliff.

If you take that last link, you’ll find more guidance from the author of that quote…

And, this is an appropriate time to reveal that I, the author who can’t abide being in groups of writers, has joined a writer’s group—a group in which our commenter from Belgium is an administrator—a group I’ve been in with my Best Friend (an author from Australia who is also a creator of Virtual Worlds) and we both had a good time…

Perhaps, if you’re a reader who’s wondering how to gain a bit of confidence in your writing, a reader who wants to chat about rules and such, you might like how this writer’s group I’ve joined talks about itself:

“…a safe and inclusive home for writers of all skill levels and backgrounds. As a community, we celebrate our diversity and work to help each other improve our skills as both writers and editors and to encourage each other in our efforts….We respect, however, that everyone has their own path and that not every method works for everyone. The goal is to create an environment that encourages creativity, growth, and exploration of methods and styles of growth.”

Here’s the website for the group: INKUBATOR.

You can go there and “feel out” the group’s “atmosphere”…

However, they have the actual group meeting space on something called Discord

So, if you want to be a member of this group, take their Invitation to Join

Now…

In case this conversation about “rules of writing” wants to continue:

Do you have other opinions about “rules for writing”…?

Or, you may have ideas for where to find “rules for writing”…?

Or, you may not understand why there should ever be any “rules for writing”…?

And, you might be the first reader to comment and allow this discussion to continue…
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If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message
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Yet Further Conversation about the “Rules of Writing” . . .


This Blog Conversation began on October 15th and continued on Oct. 17th19th22nd24th26th, 29th, and 31st… Rules of writing

And, I’ll kick off this 9th installment with a piece of writing guidance that’s in every one of those past posts:

No rule should be followed over a cliff.

If you take that last link, you’ll find more guidance from the author of that quote…

So

Now, we can read a comment from an Author, Poet, Editor, and Photographer living in Denmark:

“I think the question is if the benefits of not following the rule outweigh the risk of breaking it. Sometimes new authors break the rules because they don’t know they’re there or don’t understand how the ‘rule’ really helps them make their writing stronger. You have to learn what the rules give you before you can judge well whether or not to break them.

“If you break rules because you don’t care about the rules or break rules because you don’t know better or break rules just to prove you can, it’s probably not the right time to break the rules. Break the rules because the story or poem or whatever is stronger when the rule is broken.

“I see a lot of people saying ‘Oh, I’m going to write a second person story.’ just because they want to flaunt the rule or consider it something they have to do to prove some point that the rules don’t apply to them. In many cases, these stories would be stronger and connect better to the reader in first or third person instead. That’s breaking the rule for the wrong reason.”

So, we have two viewpoints that say there are rules for writers; one saying none of them should be followed over a cliff; the second cautioning a need for understanding rules enough so that breaking them actually aids the written work; and, that last thought encourages me to share another quote from a past post in this discussion…

from Irish author Colum McCann:

“On occasion we write a sentence that isn’t, in fact, correct, but it sings. And the question is: Would you rather be the ornithologist or the bird?”

And, I probably should share an opinion many writers declare—you can learn the rules of writing if you do enough reading of books written by accomplished authors—“accomplished” not necessarily meaning produced by the largest traditional publishers; though, there are plenty of excellent writers from the Trad Houses…

But, how would we know an author is accomplished?

I’ll leave an answer to that question for a brave commenter :-)

Now, some ideas from one of our frequent commenters, an author from the United Kingdom:

“I have come to this conversation late and it has obviously developed from ‘We need full stops and Capital letters.’ However, there is one ‘rule’ that new writers may not be aware of; and, that is the rule of ‘point of view.’ It is so much easier for the reader if at least each chapter is seen from the point of view of a single character. This is a rule that I kept to for five books and then broke, deliberately, in the sixth as I wanted the reader to know what two characters were thinking at the same time.

“I did once find it very annoying when there were a number of folk in a book I was reading and they all bombarded me with thoughts at the same time. I suppose it can work…

“Sorry if I’ve been too simple in my interpretation.”

First, I don’t feel our author from the U.K. has oversimplified…

I suppose I could restate the main point in the comment as: Be very careful of representing the soundtrack of a loud party in your writing :-)

Plus, the fact that both commenters brought up point-of-view might be another example of Synchronicity appearing in this discussion…

I need to let you know that each of our authors today shared their ideas in the comments section of different posts in this series, so I’ll leave it to one of them to let us know if we did experience again what happened in this post

Do you have other opinions about “rules for writing”…?

Or, you may have ideas for where to find “rules for writing”…?

Or, you may not understand why there should ever be any “rules for writing”…?

And, you might be the first reader to comment and allow this discussion to continue…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

Still Further Conversation about the “Rules of Writing” . . .


Rules of Writing

This Blog Conversation began on October 15th and continued on Oct. 17th19th22nd24th, 26th, and 29th

The reader comments in all those past posts are the reason for this discussion’s wide variety of views about the “rules” of writing…

And, here is yet another comment from our author-publisher friend from Germany:

“We need rules that can help us read our sentences with the eyes of outsiders who haven’t been listening to the ideas in our heads but have to rely on our words on the page. Such rules wouldn’t be writing rules, more writing signposts.

“Having read ‘No rule should be followed over a cliff‘ so often, I remember a holiday trip to Denmark. In Germany, people are used to railings and barriers that keep us away from cliffs, often with several yards between the railing and the cliff. It is impossible to look over the cliff and see what lies behind or below. In Denmark, we followed a path along a cliff. There were no railings, just an old sign half hidden between trees that reminded us of the danger. And we could see the danger, and the long way down to yet more cliffs and water.

“A useful rule would always remind us of the long way down but let us ramble along the edge.”

This is a remarkable comment…

First, because of the “rules” our commenter imagines that would help us see with the eyes (mind) of the reader…

One way to attempt to follow this guidance is to be a writer who regularly reads—remembering that humans are more the same than they are different—habitual reading can create an internal awareness of the “reader’s mind”—how they “see” our writing…

Naturally, this may not let a writer read their own words like every single other reader might—there are folks who are not in touch with their deeper and common humanity…

Plus, there are, certainly, some, even if small, variations in the way any writing might be interpreted—this being a natural “feature” of using words…

And, a further reason our German friend’s comment is remarkable to me is the opportunity to form metaphoric interpretations of the two paths—with rigidly enforced boundaries or casual borders—essentially a choice between having rules to keep us from misusing other rules or having a sense of forethought that lets us pursue the path of writing with personal principles…

It would be wonderful if someone else would craft a metaphoric interpretation of our commenter’s two cliff paths :-)

And, I must repeat this commenter’s summation:

“A useful rule would always remind us of the long way down but let us ramble along the edge.”

And, speaking of “edges” that writers can explore, a brief comment from a poet on Wattpad — which I’m ever so slightly editing for context… :

Broadening the limitlessness of writing, because rules may be a personal entrapment—unnecessary as well.

And, I can imagine hearing a reader saying: “But, don’t we need some rules so our readers can at least understand what we write?”

That could open up many avenues of discussion:

Who are we writing for…?

Why are we writing…?

Do we write to “conform” to others’ ideas…?

Do we write to help others “relax” their conformity…?

And, more generally:

Do you have other opinions about “rules for writing”…?

Or, you may have ideas for where to find “rules for writing”…?

Or, you may not understand why there should ever be any “rules for writing”…?

And, you might be the first reader to comment and allow this discussion to continue :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

 

Even Further Conversation about the “Rules of Writing” . . .


Rules of writing This Blog Conversation began on October 15th and continued on Oct. 17th19th22nd, 24th, and 26th

If you’re even moderately interested in “rules of writing”, do check out those past posts—we’ve come a long way in this conversation :-)

So…

The first comment to let this discussion move forward came from a poet on Wattpad:

“‘No rule should be followed off a cliff !’ How very true, yet we are often leery of those edgy rules… and how does constraint allow the wings of creativity to spread and fly? Thank you for this very enlightening , relatable , generous essay for all writers to come read and say to themselves, ‘Ah, it’s not just me who wonders about “rules.”‘”

I must first say that without enlightening , relatable , and generous comments from my readers, there would be no “essays” :-)

And, may I ask, are you often “leery” of those “edgy” rules…?

Now, I need to share the etymologies of those two quoted words:

Leery = “‘knowing, wide-awake, untrusting, suspicious, alert’, 1718, originally slang, with -y (2), but otherwise of unknown origin. Perhaps from dialectal lere ‘learning, knowledge’ (see lore), or from leer (v.) in a now-obscure sense ‘walk stealthily with averted looks, sneak away’ (1580s).”

Edgy = “‘having sharp edges’, 1755, from edge (n.) + -y (2). Meaning ‘tense and irritable’ is attested by 1837, perhaps from notion of being on the edge, at the point of doing something irrational (a figurative use attested from c. 1600).”

So, we can become knowing, wide-awake, untrusting, suspicious, and alert about “rules” that might lead us to doing something irrational…?

Well, I sure am :-)

Plus, if rules are overly constraining we can’t “allow the wings of creativity to spread and fly”…

Now, a responsive comment from an author-publisher who I asked, in a previous post, “Perhaps our German commenter’s potential fright when exposing her writing is fearing some ‘judgement’; or, worse, receiving no response to her particular Truth…?”:

“I always feel that a young manuscript is vulnerable. So many things can still happen to change the text, maybe hurt it. First responses are useful when they offer new ideas and directions for growth. But they also have the potential of cutting off ways and stifling ideas.”

And, that exchange in this discussion broadened our considerations to the “rules” about how we “should” treat our works-in-progress as they’re offered to beta-readers

“Rules” there are for every phase of writing and so many of those “rules” can, indeed, slow or stop our writing…

And, the same German author-publisher offered another comment:

“Getting in touch with one’s inner authenticity is important. I believe writers often reach down into this well of creativity. The question is if they can stand by what they have written or if they turn to rules after writing and delete what doesn’t conform to them.”

This seems to me an authorial sin—deleting words and ideas because of someone else’s “rules”…

I must now quote Irish author Colum McCann:

“On occasion we write a sentence that isn’t, in fact, correct, but it sings. And the question is: Would you rather be the ornithologist or the bird?”

Do you have other opinions about “rules for writing”…?

Or, you may have ideas for where to find “rules for writing”…?

Or, you may not understand why there should ever be any “rules for writing”…?

And, you might be the first reader to comment and allow this discussion to continue :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

Further Conversation about the “Rules of Writing” . . .


This Blog Conversation began on October 15th and continued on Oct. 17th19th, 22nd, and 24th… Rules of writing

Scanning those previous posts and reading the

BlockQuotes

will show you the range of ideas we’ve covered so far in this discussion…

One critical idea I’ve shared in all those past posts is from author C. J. Cherryh:

No Rule Should Be Followed Off a Cliff.

Do you think that’s important in writing…?

Perhaps you’d share an experience you (or, a writer friend) has had in following a “rule” off a “cliff”…

We had only one reader comment on the last post; but, that’s all that’s needed to take us forward :-)

The comment is from an accomplished author from Australia:

“I think that when a writer meets with ‘synchronicity’ it indicates that somehow the writer has accessed an inner world that has moved beyond fear and is putting them in touch with their own authenticity. They are then writing from that authentic place, and although some external rules may be helpful, it is not the rules that are steering the boat, it is their inner compass :-) “

The idea of synchronicity was brought up in the post on the 24th because an image I’d used had been used by our commenter from Germany; but, she’d used it in a post of her own on the rules of writing, Before she’d seen the post here…

Technically, the bit about synchronicity in the 24th’s post was about a  non-causal connection ( a “meaningful coincidence” ) between two writers—not about synchronicity in the writing process itself; yet, our author friend from Australia is bringing it straight into the activities writer’s use to get words on the page…

I’ll attempt an example of synchronicity in the act of writing:

I sit down to write the scene in a story I’m making up for my grandson’s birthday (something hopefully fun and different, to go with his money gift)—his mother, my daughter, has dared me to write it; but, I’m not too sure I can… Her willingness to read the story aloud at the party convinces me to give it a valiant try…

The scene I’m working on deals with the main character discovering his life’s work through a discussion with an old man in a cafe…

I’m interrupted by a call from my best friend, inviting me, out of the blue, to our favorite coffee shop to meet a famous author…

While enjoying our beverages and chatting merrily away, this famous, yet aged, author says something that deeply assures me that writing is actually my life’s work…

The synchronicity is the story’s character in their cafe and me in my favorite coffee shop—plus, of course, the old men and the revelation of a life’s work…

So, that’s, hopefully, a “story” that might “light up” what our author friend from Australia spoke of as synchronicity indicating “that somehow the writer has accessed an inner world that has moved beyond fear and is putting them in touch with their own authenticity“.

But, let’s not forget the confirming thought in our commenter’s statement, that even if we’re using a few rules for our writing, “it is not the rules that are steering the boat, it is their inner compass“—the compass needle guided by the synchronicity that links us to our deepest authenticity…

Well

If all those ideas don’t encourage someone to share a comment, all the readers of this blog must be on a vacation :-)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message